When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
(“Trust and Obey” D. Towner & J. Sammis, 1886)
As a homeschool family, finding activities that were both fun and educational was always at the forefront of our minds. When the children were at an early elementary age, I thought participating in swimming lessons would be beneficial to them. They had learned some basics from me, such as holding their breath while underwater, floating on their backs, and the basic crawl stroke; but I thought some formalized instruction would give them an added level of enjoyment and safety. We took the plunge and decided to join our local YMCA.
I was really excited about the idea of joining and so were my two girls, Abbey and Rachel. My son, Ben, however, was a little reticent. He tends to be more cautious than they as he likes to think about things before he commits, and often can talk himself out of trying something new. I imagine that his 5-year-old mind thought, “We homeschool, so why do we have to have someone teach us this? Can’t we teach ourselves?” Ben loves to read, and he probably would have been happier reading about adventures at sea rather than actually take a lesson! But being a mostly compliant child, he humored me and did not put up a fuss. After a few lessons, he seemed comfortable with the routine and even seemed to enjoy them. Until one day at the pool, he was asked to step out of his comfort zone.
After class, the kids hauled themselves up the pool ladder with the deftness of sailors and dripped their way toward me, shivering and ready for dry towels and hot lunches. After a few moments, I noticed the girls were busy getting dry and dressed while Ben was milling around slick like an otter, shivering and looking a bit distressed.
“Where’s your towel?” I asked. “Over there,” Ben replied as he pointed across the pool. “Well, walk around and get it,” I responded, “and then we can get something to eat.” Ben didn’t move and looked at me as if waiting for me to go get it. I was confused and encouraged again, “Go on. Grab it.” “I don’t want to go over there,” Ben replied.
Frustrated, my voice became firmer, “Ben, go get your towel.” I knew I had a teaching moment on my hands. If I did it for him, I was letting him not only disobey me but also succumb to fear. For his growth, he needed to take the journey that seemed daunting to him. I knew I would have my eyes on him and keep him from harm, but to him it seemed very far away and intimidating due to all of the people and activity. This was a trifecta of life lessons: instantaneous obedience, trusting me, and development of courage. After a pause, he bravely marched off and returned, having conquered his task. I was so proud of him and also thankful for an opportunity to teach a simple yet powerful life lesson.
When Joseph was confronted with Mary’s surprise pregnancy, he probably responded like most of us when confronted with unexpected and unwanted news: with discomfort, anxiety, fear, and possibly a dose of anger. When Joseph was exhorted by Gabriel to take Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20), I can only imagine the thoughts and emotions that raced through his mind. Yet in spite of his internal struggle, Joseph decided to trust in God’s message and obey the command, “Do not fear.”
Joseph’s decision to trust and obey God by taking Mary as his wife, then raising Jesus as his own child, started a pattern that seemed to only grow in strength. While we don’t have a lot of information in the Bible about Joseph, we get a glimpse of his growth and continued trust in Matthew 13 when Joseph is instructed by God to take his family and flee to Egypt; and then, years later, he was once again visited by an angel and told to return to Nazareth where he would raise his family.
I believe that the day Ben chose to take the courageous step to collect his towel was a defining moment for him. It was a small step in learning to trust and obey me in spite of his fleshly fears. He chose to trust me and gained his towel, and made a step toward overcoming a fear. Joseph too made a choice that may have caused internal and external turmoil but was rewarded by God with the premier fathering job of all time: raising Jesus, the Lamb of God.